Monday, 25 July, 2005

Denver's Pit Bull Ban

I've been stewing on this one for a while, hoping that something would happen to bring people to their senses.  That doesn't appear likely at this point.

The city and county of Denver, Colorado has banned pit bulls, and they're not shy about enforcing the ban.  One could call them overzealous.  And they're not stopping at the three breeds (American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier), but rather they've been impounding any dog that looks even remotely like a pit bull.  Since May, police and animal control have impounded almost 400 dogs and destroyed over 260 of them.  Neither the dog's behavior nor the conditions under which it is kept (securely fenced, for example) are taken into account.  If it looks like a pit bull, it has to go.

In 1989, the Denver City Council passed a resolution banning pit bulls.  This was mostly in response to two separate attacks:  a 3 year old boy who was killed in 1986, and a 70 year old man who was mauled in 1989.  I don't know what happened in the interim, but in 2004 the Colorado legislature passed and the governor signed a law prohibiting breed-specific bans.  But the Denver City Council sued and won, and in May started enforcing the ban with a vengeance.  The Christian Science Monitor's article Denver's pit bull ban roils owners has more details.

Some people have gone so far, as columnist Bill Johnson points out, to suggest that the ban is at least in part racially targeted.  "They aren't killing dogs from Cherry Creek [a particularly affluent section of Denver]."  The CSM article addresses this charge, too, and also includes a quote from a Denver official who denies it.

There's no doubt in my mind that a pit bull can be a dangerous dog.  I've seen the results of Charlie attacking a fawn in the back yard.  I've also seen a Malamute eat a cat, a poodle attack a 'possum, and the results of a Cocker Spaniel biting a child's face.  The number of attacks by Dalmatians went up alarmingly when the breed became more popular.  People have been killed by Rottweilers, Labrador Retrievers, St. Bernards, Dobermans, and just about every other large breed you can think of.  Dogs can be dangerous.  There's simply no good evidence that any particular breed is significantly more likely to attack.

Not that logic or evidence ever stopped a City Council or other governing body from enforcing a law that makes the constituents think that they're "doing something about the problem."  Just look at the government's studies of commercial aviation safety sometime and then tell me if our "increased security" has made airline travel any safer.